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Amadeus at Symphony Hall

Director's cut of Amadeus at Symphony Hall. Photo Credit: Garrett Harris
Director's cut of Amadeus at Symphony Hall. Photo Credit: Garrett Harris

I happened to see that the San Diego Symphony was offering a screening of the movie Amadeus on a Saturday night (November 4) for $5, so I went. How could I not?

The movie was played at Symphony Hall but without the San Diego Symphony playing the soundtrack. That would have been an undertaking which warranted more than $5 per ticket.

Movie

Amadeus *

thumbnail

Through the overlush production and the underlush direction (by Milos Forman), you can still see the makings of a potent historical fiction: potent enough, that is, to stir up curiosity about how much of it is true and to put down protests about how much of it isn't. The rivalry between the traditionalist court composer Antonio Salieri and the free-lance innovator Mozart -- a one-sided rivalry, really, with Salieri driven by envy of talent, and revulsion at personal temperament, into the most melodramatic sort of chicanery -- has almost as universal an application as author Peter Shaffer means it to have: mediocrity is everywhere, and its best hope to escape detection is to stamp out anything better. But the particulars of this case tend, as particulars will, to obscure the application; and though most people by definition should have an easier time identifying with Salieri, the dramatic sympathy piles up all the other way. "Chastity, industry, and humility" — the bartering items Salieri is ready to offer to God in exchange for musical immortality — do not sound anywhere near as much fun as the bouts of partygoing that seem to take up the bulk of Mozart's time, in between jotting down those masterpieces that come to his head fully formed. The notion of "genius" as some sort of genetic lottery prize (rather than as that no-fun definition of Carlyle's, the transcendent capacity for taking pains) will help to make Mozart a hero for our time, if only to provide a handy excuse for packing it up whenever work bogs down. (Nothing pushes the conflict further toward oversimplification than the portrayal of Mozart, by Tom Hulce, as a sort of Mickey Rooney <em>circa</em> 1939, complete with barnyard laugh.) And it will be easy to forget that Salieri, for all his obliging concessions of his own mediocrity and of the absolute genius of his rival, is at least as far above the general run as Mozart is above him. With F. Murray Abraham, Elizabeth Berridge, and Jeffrey Jones.

Find showtimes

However, they did show the director’s cut which I’d not seen before. While there were some nice character moments, by and large the director’s cut only makes sense for fans of the move who want a little more.

I take that back. The character of Antonio Salieri takes on a more sinister air in the director’s cut. In the theatrical version Salieri never slanders Mozart but rather uses inference to manipulate the perception of Mozart’s character. Salieri always manages to avoid lying even if he is trying to steal Mozart’s intellectual property by commissioning the Requiem in order to put his own name on it.

In the director’s cut Salieri warns Emperor Joseph that there are rumors about Mozart sexually harassing his pupils when the subject of finding a teacher for the Emperor’s niece is discussed. In another scene Salieri requires Mozart’s wife to offer herself to him sexually. In exchange Salieri will recommend Mozart for the position of teaching the Emperor’s niece.

Video:

Canine music lesson scene from Amadeus

This makes Salieri a fundamentally dishonest character. The theatrical cut, by removing these scenes, allows Salieri to function without being a sociopath.

There were other scenes which simply didn’t work such as an episode of Mozart having to teach over a chorus of barking dogs.

What continued to strike me throughout the experience was how masterful Amadeus is as a film. Besides the age of the actors there is nothing in the film which gives us any clue as to when it was filmed. It hasn’t aged one bit.

I never saw this movie in the theater, and I enjoyed experiencing within the spacious confines of Symphony Hall. There was a little echo to the sound but by and large it was fine.

I believe Amadeus is the only viable dramatic movie about a composer, so I have no desire to see other films at Symphony Hall such as the Beethoven biopic Immortal Beloved. Yet I would welcome an opportunity to watch classical music documentaries at Symphony Hall along with a community of music lovers.

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Director's cut of Amadeus at Symphony Hall. Photo Credit: Garrett Harris
Director's cut of Amadeus at Symphony Hall. Photo Credit: Garrett Harris

I happened to see that the San Diego Symphony was offering a screening of the movie Amadeus on a Saturday night (November 4) for $5, so I went. How could I not?

The movie was played at Symphony Hall but without the San Diego Symphony playing the soundtrack. That would have been an undertaking which warranted more than $5 per ticket.

Movie

Amadeus *

thumbnail

Through the overlush production and the underlush direction (by Milos Forman), you can still see the makings of a potent historical fiction: potent enough, that is, to stir up curiosity about how much of it is true and to put down protests about how much of it isn't. The rivalry between the traditionalist court composer Antonio Salieri and the free-lance innovator Mozart -- a one-sided rivalry, really, with Salieri driven by envy of talent, and revulsion at personal temperament, into the most melodramatic sort of chicanery -- has almost as universal an application as author Peter Shaffer means it to have: mediocrity is everywhere, and its best hope to escape detection is to stamp out anything better. But the particulars of this case tend, as particulars will, to obscure the application; and though most people by definition should have an easier time identifying with Salieri, the dramatic sympathy piles up all the other way. "Chastity, industry, and humility" — the bartering items Salieri is ready to offer to God in exchange for musical immortality — do not sound anywhere near as much fun as the bouts of partygoing that seem to take up the bulk of Mozart's time, in between jotting down those masterpieces that come to his head fully formed. The notion of "genius" as some sort of genetic lottery prize (rather than as that no-fun definition of Carlyle's, the transcendent capacity for taking pains) will help to make Mozart a hero for our time, if only to provide a handy excuse for packing it up whenever work bogs down. (Nothing pushes the conflict further toward oversimplification than the portrayal of Mozart, by Tom Hulce, as a sort of Mickey Rooney <em>circa</em> 1939, complete with barnyard laugh.) And it will be easy to forget that Salieri, for all his obliging concessions of his own mediocrity and of the absolute genius of his rival, is at least as far above the general run as Mozart is above him. With F. Murray Abraham, Elizabeth Berridge, and Jeffrey Jones.

Find showtimes

However, they did show the director’s cut which I’d not seen before. While there were some nice character moments, by and large the director’s cut only makes sense for fans of the move who want a little more.

I take that back. The character of Antonio Salieri takes on a more sinister air in the director’s cut. In the theatrical version Salieri never slanders Mozart but rather uses inference to manipulate the perception of Mozart’s character. Salieri always manages to avoid lying even if he is trying to steal Mozart’s intellectual property by commissioning the Requiem in order to put his own name on it.

In the director’s cut Salieri warns Emperor Joseph that there are rumors about Mozart sexually harassing his pupils when the subject of finding a teacher for the Emperor’s niece is discussed. In another scene Salieri requires Mozart’s wife to offer herself to him sexually. In exchange Salieri will recommend Mozart for the position of teaching the Emperor’s niece.

Video:

Canine music lesson scene from Amadeus

This makes Salieri a fundamentally dishonest character. The theatrical cut, by removing these scenes, allows Salieri to function without being a sociopath.

There were other scenes which simply didn’t work such as an episode of Mozart having to teach over a chorus of barking dogs.

What continued to strike me throughout the experience was how masterful Amadeus is as a film. Besides the age of the actors there is nothing in the film which gives us any clue as to when it was filmed. It hasn’t aged one bit.

I never saw this movie in the theater, and I enjoyed experiencing within the spacious confines of Symphony Hall. There was a little echo to the sound but by and large it was fine.

I believe Amadeus is the only viable dramatic movie about a composer, so I have no desire to see other films at Symphony Hall such as the Beethoven biopic Immortal Beloved. Yet I would welcome an opportunity to watch classical music documentaries at Symphony Hall along with a community of music lovers.

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